Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 7th, 2022

Overnight Oats

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Dr. Michael Greger’s suggestion of a breakfast that’s quickly ready in the morning (because it was mostly readied the night before) and checks off several of the Daily Dozen:


  • 1/2  cup old-fashioned or quick cook oats
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

To Serve:

  • 1-2 tablespoons unsweetened soymilk
  • 1/2 cup fresh berries
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 1 tablespoon raw, unsalted nut butter


  • Place oats, water and cinnamon in a lidded container, such as a glass jar, and gently mix together. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or at most 12 hours.
  • Remove the container from the fridge and top with soymilk, until it reaches desired consistency. Top with fresh berries, flaxseed, and nut butter. Stir together and enjoy right away, or take it on the go.

If fresh berries are not available, I think it would make sense to include 1/2 cup frozen berries with the oatmeal, water, and cinnamon — frozen mixed berries, for example. They would be thawed by the time the dish is eaten.

I grind flaxseed just before I eat it.


I just learned from The Eldest that overnight oats (i.e., soaked, uncooked rolled oats) have more resistant starch than cooked and refrigerated oats. Oats lose resistant starch when cooked, unlike rice, potatoes, pasta, et al. If you refrigerate those latter carbs, starch in them becomes resistant (not so quickly digested, extending satiation and nourishing your gut microbiome).

Written by Leisureguy

7 July 2022 at 9:57 pm

‘They are preparing for war’: An expert on civil wars discusses where political extremists are taking this country

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I came across the Washington Post interview below (gift link, no paywall) via a Facebook post by Rebecca Solnit, who extracted some of the article:

The CIA also has a manual on insurgency. You can Google it and find it online.

[See “Guide to the Analysis of Insurgency” (PDF), which seems to be the manual she has in mind. See also:  “Estimating State Instability” (PDF). See also this page on the Wilson Center website: “Political Instability Task Force: New Findings” (2004) – LG]

Most of it is not redacted. And it’s absolutely fascinating to read. It’s not a big manual. And it was written, I’m sure, to help the U.S. government identify very, very early stages of insurgency. So if something’s happening in the Philippines, or something’s happening in Indonesia. You know, what are signs that we should be looking out for?

And the manual talks about three stages. And the first stage is . . .

The Washinton Post interview is from March 8, 2022, and was done by KK Ottesen (and again: that’s a gift link). The quoted passage above is taken from the interview, which begins:

Barbara F. Walter, 57, is a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego and the author of “How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them,” which was released in January. She lives in San Diego with her husband.

Having studied civil wars all over the world, and the conditions that give rise to them, you argue in your book, somewhat chillingly, that the United States is coming dangerously close to those conditions. Can you explain that?

So we actually know a lot about civil wars — how they start, how long they last, why they’re so hard to resolve, how you end them. And we know a lot because since 1946, there have been over 200 major armed conflicts. And for the last 30 years, people have been collecting a lot of data, analyzing the data, looking at patterns. I’ve been one of those people.

We went from thinking, even as late as the 1980s, that every one of these was unique. And the way people studied it is they would be a Somalia expert, a Yugoslavia expert, a Tajikistan expert. And everybody thought their case was unique and that you could draw no parallels. Then methods and computers got better, and people like me came and could collect data and analyze it. And what we saw is that there are lots of patterns at the macro level.

In 1994, the U.S. government put together this Political Instability Task Force. They were interested in trying to predict what countries around the world were going to become unstable, potentially fall apart, experience political violence and civil war.

Was that out of the State Department?

That was done through the CIA. And the task force was a mix of academics, experts on conflict, and data analysts. And basically what they wanted was: In all of your research, tell us what you think seems to be important. What should we be considering when we’re thinking about the lead-up to civil wars?

Originally the model included over 30 different factors, like poverty, income inequality, how diverse religiously or ethnically a country was. But only two factors came out again and again as highly predictive. And it wasn’t what people were expecting, even on the task force. We were surprised. The first was this variable called anocracy. There’s this nonprofit based in Virginia called the Center for Systemic Peace. And every year it measures all sorts of things related to the quality of the governments around the world. How autocratic or how democratic a country is. And it has this scale that goes from negative 10 to positive 10. Negative 10 is the most authoritarian, so think about North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain. Positive 10 are the most democratic. This, of course, is where you want to be. This would be Denmark, Switzerland, Canada. The U.S. was a positive 10 for many, many years. It’s no longer a positive 10. And then it has this middle zone between positive 5 and negative 5, which was you had features of both. If you’re a positive 5, you have more democratic features, but definitely have a few authoritarian elements. And, of course, if you’re negative 5, you have more authoritarian features and a few democratic elements. The U.S. was briefly downgraded to a 5 and is now an 8.

And what scholars found was that this anocracy variable was really predictive of a risk for civil war. That full democracies almost never have civil wars. Full autocracies rarely have civil wars. All of the instability and violence is happening in this middle zone. And there’s all sorts of theories why this middle zone is unstable, but one of the big ones is that these governments tend to be weaker. They’re transitioning to either actually becoming more democratic, and so some of the authoritarian features are loosening up. The military is giving up control. And so it’s easier to organize a challenge. Or, these are democracies that are backsliding, and there’s a sense that these governments are not that legitimate, people are unhappy with these governments. There’s infighting. There’s jockeying for power. And so they’re weak in their own ways. Anyway, that turned out to be highly predictive.

And then the second factor was whether populations in these partial democracies began to organize politically, not around ideology — so, not based on whether you’re a communist or not a communist, or you’re a liberal or a conservative — but where the parties themselves were based almost exclusively around identity: ethnic, religious or racial identity. The quintessential example of this is what happened in the former Yugoslavia.

So for you, personally, what was the moment the ideas began to connect, and you thought: Wait a minute, I see these patterns in my country right now?

My dad is from Germany. He was born in 1932 and lived through the war there, and he emigrated here in 1958. He had been a Republican his whole life, you know; we had the Reagan calendar in the kitchen every year.

And starting in early 2016, I would go home to visit, and my dad — he doesn’t agitate easily, but he was so agitated. All he wanted to do was talk about Trump and what he was seeing happening. He was really nervous. It was almost visceral — like, he was reliving the past. Every time I’d go home, he was just, like, “Please tell me Trump’s not going to win.” And I would tell him, “Dad, Trump is not going to win.” And he’s just, like, “I don’t believe you; I saw this once before. And I’m seeing it again, and the Republicans, they’re just falling in lockstep behind him.” He was so nervous.

I remember saying: “Dad, what’s really different about America today from Germany in the 1930s is that our democracy is really strong. Our institutions are strong. So, even if you had a Trump come into power, the institutions would hold strong.” Of course, then Trump won. We would have these conversations where my dad would draw all these parallels. The brownshirts and the attacks on the media and the attacks on education and on books. And he’s just, like, I’m seeing it. I’m seeing it all again here. And that’s really what shook me out of my complacency, that here was this man who is very well educated and astute, and he was shaking with fear. And I was like, Am I being naive to think that we’re different?

That’s when I started to follow the data. And then, watching what happened to the Republican Party really was the bigger surprise — that, wow, they’re doubling down on this almost white supremacist strategy. That’s a losing strategy in a democracy. So why would they do that? Okay, it’s worked for them since the ’60s and ’70s, but you can’t turn back demographics. And then I was like, Oh my gosh. The only way this is a winning strategy is if you begin to weaken the institutions; this is the pattern we see in other countries. And, as an American citizen I’m like, These two factors are emerging here, and people don’t know.

So I gave a talk at UCSD about this — and it was a complete bomb. Not . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

7 July 2022 at 9:11 pm

Beets and Leeks complete

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Beets & Leeks after two weeks

Two weeks ago I started a ferment of beets & leeks (and a few other things), and today they went into the fridge. That involved removing the fermentation weight, removing the small amount of mold that formed at the very top (not uncommon, and harmless: just remove and discard); and replacing the canning jar’s fermentation airlock with a lid.

I just tasted it, and it’s good, and not especially salty. I think I’ll omit the dates from now on. They have a soft texture that doesn’t jibe well with the crunchiness of everything else. 

Other than the dates, this seems a good combination, and I’ll be making it again. I try to have a small serving of fermented vegetables every day or two, more or less as a condiment.

Weck lid and spring clips

The spring clips that secure the lid of the Weck 1.5L jar have been a challenge to put on, but then I discovered I was putting them on upside down. When put on right-side up, as in the photo, they are dead simple: put in place and mash down and it’s done. And they do hold the lid securely in place.

I imagine this batch will last me 3 or 4 months. — Guess not. It’s now 22 July and the first jar has been eaten. It’s so tasty!

Written by Leisureguy

7 July 2022 at 3:05 pm

The New Gun Reform Law Is the Biggest Expansion of Medicaid Since Obamacare

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Abdul El-Sayed reports in The New Republic:

. . .  Though the new law has been touted as the most expansive gun law passed in 30 years, the bar for gun reform is admittedly low. And while any progress on gun reform is laudable—and the law is likely to have some impact on gun access—the most important effects of the law will be felt elsewhere.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act has been framed as a gun reform, but perhaps a more fitting frame for the law is as the biggest single expansion of mental health care in American history—and the biggest expansion of Medicaid—with a few gun provisions.

To be sure, packaging the two together makes both gun reform and mental health advocates uncomfortable. The overwhelming majority of people with mental illness will never commit a violent act, though statistics show that they’re more likely to be victims. Tying mental illness with gun violence only stigmatizes it, reducing the likelihood that people who need care will get it. But gun rights activists see mental illness as a convenient distraction from the fundamental issue driving gun violence—the guns themselves.

Getting Republican participation on any gun reform, though, required that the two be linked. And any investment in our anemic mental health care system—whatever the pretext—should be welcomed. So the new law leverages Medicaid to vastly expand America’s mental health infrastructure through a system of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, or CCBHCs, and school mental health investments.

I spoke with Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow, the program’s architect, about how it happened. “The Republicans wanted to do something big on mental health. At the beginning, they wanted to do it at the exclusion of gun safety. We all said no. I mean, this is the issue of guns. But yes, of course, if you want to do something along with it on mental health,” Stabenow told me.

The law’s massive investment in mental health care didn’t just happen over the course of a few weeks. It was the product of nearly a decade of slow, methodical planning. Stabenow and GOP Missouri Senator Roy Blunt had been co-sponsors of the bill reauthorizing community health center funding—consistent federal dollars to support community clinics—when Stabenow proposed a similar approach to funding mental health care. Until that point, mental health clinics were forced to operate on grants that they simply couldn’t rely on. “On the behavioral health side of things, it [was] all stop and start. It [was] all grants that go away,” Stabenow told me.

She approached the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, to design quality standards for the proposed mental health centers that would eventually become CCBHCs. These included 24-hour psychiatric crisis services and integration with physical health services. Stabenow and Blunt eventually co-sponsored a 2013 bill that was signed into law the next year by President Obama. The Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act initially allocated $1 billion to fund a demonstration project across 10 states. The program offers enhanced Medicaid reimbursements to cover 80 to 90 percent of the start-up and operating costs for CCBHCs meeting SAMHSA standards.

The results were impressive. According to Stabenow, there was a 60 percent reduction in jail bookings stemming from mental health crises, a 63 percent reduction in mental health emergency room visits, and a 41 percent decline in homelessness.

The act was reauthorized in 2021 as the need for community mental health service boomed with the Covid-19 pandemic. The program grew to have a footprint across 41 states with additional support in each of the Covid funding packages. And that was when the shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, created the space for a full national expansion through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

When I asked Stabenow if this was the biggest expansion of Medicaid since the Affordable Care Act, she said, “Yes, no question, and … it’s the biggest investment in mental health and addiction services ever.”

The irony of this moment is that Republicans have been working at the state and federal levels to restrict Medicaid, if not gut it entirely, since it was created as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. And yet mental illness and substance use have devastated low-income white communities, Republican strongholds, over the past several decades. The need to actually invest in solutions in these communities coupled with the need to be seen to be responding to America’s growing gun violence epidemic is what ultimately spurred Republicans to invest in and expand a program they claim to hate.

But it’s also the fact that Democrats like Stabenow made it easier. “I didn’t lean in the beginning on emphasizing Medicaid,” she said. “I know it’s Medicaid. He knew it was Medicaid. But we just talked about what should be funding this.… I was trying to get them to see, look, we have this system that works, and everybody loves community health centers.”

The victory for mental health care, on its own, is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 July 2022 at 11:14 am

The mathematical power of 3 random words

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Mary Lynn Reed, Professor of Mathematics, Rochester Institute of Technology, writes in The Conversation:

It’s hard to imagine that three random words have the power to both map the globe and keep your private data secure. The secret behind this power is just a little bit of math.

What3words is an app and web-based service that provides a geographic reference for every 3-meter-by-3-meter square on Earth using three random words. If your brain operates more naturally in the English measurement system, 3 meters is about 9.8 feet. So, you could think of them as roughly 10-foot-by-10-foot squares, which is about the size of a small home office or bedroom. For example, there’s a square in the middle of the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers Turf Field coded to brilliance.bronze.inputs.

This new approach to geocoding is useful for several reasons. First, it’s more precise than regular street addresses. Also, three words are easier for humans to remember and communicate to one another than, say, detailed latitude and longitude measurements. This makes the system well suited for emergency services. Seeing these advantages, some car manufacturers are starting to integrate what3words into their navigation systems.

Ordered triples

Here’s how three random words in English or any other language can identify such precise locations across the whole planet. The key concept is ordered triples.

Start with the basic assumption that the Earth is a sphere, recognizing that this is an approximate truth, and that its radius is approximately 3,959 miles (6,371 kilometers). To compute the surface area of the Earth, use the formula 4πr2. With r = 3,959 (6,371), this works out to approximately 197 million square miles (510 million square kilometers). Remember: What3words is using 3-meter-by-3-meter squares, each of which contains 9 square meters of surface area. So, working in the metric system, Earth’s surface area is equivalent to 510 trillion square meters. Dividing 9 into 510 trillion reveals that uniquely identifying each square requires around 57 trillion ordered triples of three random words.

An ordered triple is just a list of three things in which the order matters. So “brilliance.bronze.inputs” would be considered a different ordered triple than “bronze.brilliance.inputs”. In fact, in the what3words system, bronze.brilliance.inputs is on a mountain in Alaska, not in the middle of the RIT Tigers Turf Field, like brilliance.bronze.inputs.

The next step is figuring out how many words there are in a language, and whether there are enough ordered triples to map the globe. Some scholars estimate there are more a million English words; however, many of them are very uncommon. But even using only common English words, there are still plenty to go around. You can find many word lists online.

The developers at what3words came up with a list of 40,000 English words. (The what3words system works in 50 different languages with independently assigned words.) The next question is determining how many ordered triples of three random words can be made from a list of 40,000 words. If you allow repeats, as what3words does, there would be 40,000 possibilities for the first word, 40,000 possibilities for the second word, and 40,000 possibilities for the third word. The number of possible ordered triples would then be 40,000 times 40,000 times 40,000, which is 64 trillion. That provides plenty of “three random word” triples to cover the globe. The excess combinations also allow what3words to eliminate offensive words and words that would be easily confused for one another.

Passwords you can actually remember

While the power of three random words is being used to map the Earth, the U.K. National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is also advocating their use as passwords. Password selection and related security analysis are more complicated than attaching three words to small squares of the globe. But a similar calculation is illuminating. If you string together an ordered triple of words – such as brilliancebronzeinputs – you get a nice long password that a human should be able to remember far more easily than a random string of letters, numbers and special characters designed to meet a set of complexity rules.

If you increase your word list beyond 40,000, you’ll get . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 July 2022 at 10:51 am

Habitually using GPS weakens your spatial memory, reducing your ability to navigate on your own

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No great surprise. “Use it or lose it” seems to be a universal rule for any lifeform (cf. eyeless animals that live in caves). Louisa Dahmani and Véronique D. Bohbot’s published study can be found online at the website of National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information. It begins:


Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation devices and applications have become ubiquitous over the last decade. However, it is unclear whether using GPS affects our own internal navigation system, or spatial memory, which critically relies on the hippocampus. We assessed the lifetime GPS experience of 50 regular drivers as well as various facets of spatial memory, including spatial memory strategy use, cognitive mapping, and landmark encoding using virtual navigation tasks. We first present cross-sectional results that show that people with greater lifetime GPS experience have worse spatial memory during self-guided navigation, i.e. when they are required to navigate without GPS. In a follow-up session, 13 participants were retested three years after initial testing. Although the longitudinal sample was small, we observed an important effect of GPS use over time, whereby greater GPS use since initial testing was associated with a steeper decline in hippocampal-dependent spatial memory. Importantly, we found that those who used GPS more did not do so because they felt they had a poor sense of direction, suggesting that extensive GPS use led to a decline in spatial memory rather than the other way around. These findings are significant in the context of society’s increasing reliance on GPS.


When we navigate in a new environment, we are required to pay attention to our surroundings and to update our position using our own internal navigation system in order to reach our destination. Using GPS removes these requirements and renders navigation less cognitively demanding. In fact, people who travel along given routes using GPS gain less knowledge about those routes compared to people who travel the same routes without an aid, using a map, or after being guided by an experimenter. However, no studies have looked at whether GPS use has long-term effects on our internal navigation system, when we are required to find our way without a navigation aid.

When we navigate without GPS in a new environment, there are two navigation strategies that we can use that depend on separate brain systems. One is the spatial memory strategy and involves learning the relative positions of landmarks and serves to form a cognitive map of the environment,. This strategy critically relies on the hippocampus,, a brain region heavily involved in episodic memory and relational memory. The other strategy is the stimulus-response strategy and involves learning a sequence of motor responses (e.g., turn left) from specific positions (e.g., next corner). Stimulus-response learning critically relies on the caudate nucleus,, a brain region also responsible for habit learning (e.g., learning how to ride a bicycle),. This strategy leads to more rigid behavior and allows us to navigate on ‘auto-pilot’ on routes that we travel frequently. Our tasks allow us to measure several facets of navigation, including the extent of navigation strategy use (people can use the same strategy but rely on it to different extents), learning (how quickly people learn about a new environment), cognitive mapping, landmark encoding and reliance, and flexibility/rigidity. The spatial memory and stimulus-response strategies are distinct as they rely on separate neural networks and demonstrate a double dissociation, in that lesioning the spatial memory neural circuit impairs spatial memory but spares stimulus-response learning, while lesioning the stimulus-response neural circuit impairs stimulus-response learning but spares spatial memory,,. Thus, navigation is a broad process that includes two distinct methods: spatial learning and memory and stimulus-response learning and memory.

Using GPS involves following step-by-step sensorimotor instructions, which is similar to learning stimulus-response associations (e.g., turn right at the next intersection, turn left in 500 m). In a cross-sectional study, we sought to determine whether individuals with greater GPS habits rely more on stimulus-response strategies and less on spatial memory strategies when they are required to navigate without GPS, and whether they have poorer cognitive mapping abilities and landmark encoding. We then performed a three-year follow-up in which we retested a small subset of participants. This longitudinal session served to investigate whether GPS use has a negative impact on the various spatial memory facets over time.



Sixty healthy young adults between the ages of 19 and 35 participated in the cross-sectional study. Participants were required to be . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 July 2022 at 10:16 am

Dark Chocolate and the German 37

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It’s always a pleasure to use my Omega Pro 48 (10048), and the pleasure is augmented by the fragrance of dark chocolate from a good soap — in this case, a Phoenix Artisan Kokum Butter soap. This fragrance was a one-off for Valentine’s Day a few years back and is no longer available, alas. I like it a lot.

Well-lathered, my stubble was helpless against the efficient (though comfortable) sweep of my RazoRock German 37, a clone of the Merkur 37 but in a better (i.e., 3-piece) format. Three passes left my face remarkably smooth, and a splash of the Dark Chocolate aftershave (with a couple of squirts of Hydrating Gel) finished the job. The Dark Chocolate note is dominant immediately after application, but the dry-down brings out other notes to a nicely complex whole.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Lavender Cream: “A beautifully balanced lavender black tea with creamy vanilla.”

Written by Leisureguy

7 July 2022 at 9:55 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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